Navigating the North American Consulting Market

The North American consulting market, spearheaded by the United States, stands as the largest and most mature market globally. It offers a rich tapestry of opportunities and challenges for businesses seeking consulting services. With its historical roots and vast array of top consulting firms, North America is a hub of innovation and strategic expertise.

This article delves into the specifics of this market, explores the top consulting firms, and provides practical advice to help you navigate this complex and diverse terrain. Whether you’re looking for a generalist or specialist firm, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and leverage the best consulting expertise available.

The North American Consulting Market

The North American consulting market is predominantly led by the United States, boasting a rich historical legacy and home to many leading consulting firms. This region is experiencing robust growth across various service lines, driven by economic expansion and increasing demand for consulting services in digital transformation, mergers and acquisitions, and sustainability. North America makes up about 40% of the global consulting industry, with the United States accounting for a staggering 93% of this regional market.

Market Dominance and Innovation

The U.S. consulting market’s dominance isn’t just in numbers; it reflects the professionalization and innovation of U.S. consulting services. Many of the world’s largest and most influential consultancies, such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company, Deloitte, EY, and PwC, are headquartered in the U.S. Their global strategies and business operations are often steered from their American offices, which serve as central hubs of innovation and strategic planning.

Historical Roots of Consulting

The modern management consulting industry traces its origins back to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Iconic firms like Arthur D. Little, Booz Allen Hamilton, A.T. Kearney, and McKinsey & Company were pioneers, introducing rigorous analytical approaches to business management.

These early firms set the stage for what would become a vital industry in the global economy. In 2021, North America accounted for 37% of the global management consulting services market value, the largest share held by any region. This significant market share underscores the region’s pivotal role in shaping global consulting trends and practices.

A Hub for Generalist and Specialist Firms

North America isn’t just about the big names like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. It’s also home to a range of specialist firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, known for its expertise in government and defence, and Heidrick & Struggles, which specializes in executive search. These firms cater to a diverse spectrum of client needs, from overarching strategic transformations to specialized operational or sector-specific challenges.

The key to navigating this incredibly diverse industry is to do proper due diligence before hiring a consultant: Do they have the proper expertise both in terms of capability and industry experience? Can they tackle your specific problem? And if you’re struggling to find the right match, don’t hesitate to call us. Custom search is where we started, and we’re damn good at it.

Navigating the Consulting Landscape in North America

The U.S. consulting market is mature, but don’t be fooled—hiring consultants here isn’t a walk in the park. The landscape is ever-changing, and while there are vast opportunities, there are also significant pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.

Opportunities: A Market Rich in Diversity and Expertise

Indeed, the market is mature and incredibly diverse. You can find all types of consulting firms here—thousands, in fact. Whatever your need, it’s likely covered. Looking for a firm specialized in market entry for dental medical devices in North America? Believe it or not, that’s a real project we’ve handled years ago.

No matter how niche your project, there’s a firm out there that can help. From giants like McKinsey and BCG offering cutting-edge digital transformation strategies to niche players like Booz Allen Hamilton focusing on cybersecurity, the breadth of expertise available is staggering. This immense diversity illustrates just how specialized and varied the consulting industry can be.

Pitfalls: Watch Out for These Common Traps

As mature as the market is, so are the consultants. The asymmetry of information with clients is at its peak. This mature market also brings a misconception—the size of consulting firms might give you the false impression that they can do anything, which can lead to both a lack of true expertise and premium prices for operations projects. And since these firms can seemingly “do it all,” there’s a risk of consultant-centric transformations—the old story of if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Also, because they work with everyone, there’s a good chance they also work with your competition, which can raise some confidentiality issues. Ensuring that your consulting agreement includes strict clauses on confidentiality and conflict of interest is crucial.

Due Diligence: The Key to Navigating the Consulting Market

Before hiring a consultant, it’s crucial to perform thorough due diligence: Do they possess the necessary expertise both in terms of capability and industry experience? Can they genuinely tackle your specific problem? This step cannot be overlooked if you’re aiming for a successful consulting engagement.

And if you’re struggling to find the right match, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Custom search is where we started, and we’re damn good at it. We can help you navigate this incredibly diverse industry to find the perfect consulting firm for your unique needs.

Your Guide to the Top Consulting Firms in North America

Since we’re nice, we won’t leave you hanging. Here is a little guide to the top consulting firms in the region.

The Generalist Players

These firms do it all within management consulting—covering capabilities such as Strategy & Management, Operations, Finance & Risk, Sales & Marketing, Human Capital, Research and Development, and Technology & Digital. They serve almost all industries.

Arthur D. Little

Arthur D. Little is one of the oldest management consulting firms in the world, renowned for its work in innovation, R&D management, and digital transformation. They serve a broad range of industries including automotive, chemicals, consumer goods, energy, and healthcare.

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Bain & Company

Bain & Company is well-known for its broad consulting capabilities in areas such as private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate strategy. They serve multiple industries including consumer products, financial services, healthcare, technology, and telecommunications.

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Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

BCG offers deep strategic advice across various sectors like consumer goods, healthcare, financial services, and technology. They are recognized for their work in digital transformation, innovation, and sustainability.

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Kearney is a global management consulting firm known for its work in strategic operations, procurement, and supply chain management across various industries. Their consulting services also extend to digital transformation and business strategy.

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L.E.K. Consulting

Specializing in strategy, mergers & acquisitions, and operations, L.E.K. Consulting serves a broad array of sectors including life sciences, retail, aviation, and private equity. Their insights help companies navigate critical challenges and seize opportunities.

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McKinsey & Company

McKinsey offers services across a wide array of industries including healthcare, finance, technology, and more. They focus on management and strategy consulting and are known for their rigorous analytical approach and broad industry expertise.

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Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a general management consulting firm with a wide industry footprint. They offer services in financial services, retail, aviation, and healthcare, with strong capabilities in risk management and strategy consulting.

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Roland Berger

Based in Europe but serving clients globally, Roland Berger offers strategic management consulting across multiple sectors like automotive, consumer goods, and engineering. They are known for their focus on innovation and digital transformation.

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The Specialist Players

These firms focus on a set of capabilities and/or industries but remain within the realm of management consulting.


Specializes in turnaround, restructuring, and corporate advisory services for companies facing significant challenges or transformations. AlixPartners’ expertise is particularly valuable in high-stakes, urgent situations.

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Alvarez & Marsal

Renowned for restructuring, turnaround management, and performance improvement. Alvarez & Marsal’s expertise is critical for companies in financial distress or undergoing significant transformation.

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Analysis Group

Analysis Group focuses on economic, financial, and strategy consulting. They provide expert analysis in areas such as healthcare, intellectual property, and finance.

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Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen Hamilton primarily serves the government sector, offering services that revolve around defence, security, and technology. Their specialization in government and technology sets them apart from generalist firms.

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Cornerstone Research

Cornerstone Research is known for its economic and financial consulting, particularly in legal contexts. They provide deep expertise in economic analysis for litigation and regulatory matters.

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FTI Consulting

FTI Consulting is known for its expertise in corporate finance and restructuring, economic consulting, forensic and litigation consulting, strategic communications, and technology. They handle high-stakes issues and complex investigations.

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Mercer LLC

Mercer specializes in health, wealth, and career consulting, helping companies with benefits and pensions, among other HR-related areas. Their deep focus on human capital and health benefits defines their specialty.

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NERA Economic Consulting

NERA Economic Consulting specializes in economic analysis for regulatory, antitrust, and financial litigation. They offer robust capabilities in economic research and consulting.

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PA Consulting Group

PA Consulting is known for its end-to-end innovation services, PA Consulting helps organizations design and implement complex change programs.

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Protiviti focuses on internal audit, risk, and compliance consulting. They offer deep expertise in risk management and business process improvement.

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Simon-Kucher & Partners

Specializes in pricing, sales, and marketing strategy. Simon-Kucher & Partners focuses on these specific areas of strategy, rather than a broad management or operational strategy across multiple domains, also categorizes them as specialized.

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West Monroe Partners

West Monroe Partners specializes in operations and technology consulting. They are known for helping organizations drive business value through operational excellence and innovative technology solutions.

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The Hybrid Players

These firms offer other service lines beyond management consulting such as IT, accounting, tax, and market research. They often cross-sell services.


Known for its broad range of services extending well beyond management consulting, Accenture offers digital, technology, and operations services. This includes comprehensive IT services, cloud solutions, and digital marketing.

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BDO Consulting

Provides a broad range of consulting services alongside their auditing and tax services. BDO Consulting’s advisory offerings include business consulting, risk management, and technology solutions.

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Offers a range of services including consulting, technology services, and outsourcing. Capgemini integrates IT solutions with consulting services, particularly in digital transformation and technology.

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Cognizant Technology Solutions

Primarily known for IT services, Cognizant also offers consulting services that integrate deeply with their technology and outsourcing solutions, making them a hybrid player.

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Crowe Global

Crowe combines consulting with strong accounting and advisory services. They offer comprehensive solutions in audit, tax, risk, and performance consulting.

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Deloitte Consulting LLP

Deloitte offers a broad range of services, including audit & assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and legal services. Their consulting division is particularly strong in IT and technology strategy.

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Ernst & Young provides a wide array of services including consulting, assurance, tax, and transaction advisory services. Their consulting segment includes significant contributions from performance improvement and risk services.

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Gartner, Inc.

Specializes in research and advisory services targeted at IT, HR, finance, and legal sectors. Gartner provides strategic advice mainly based on their research insights, which is somewhat unique in the consulting industry.

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Grant Thornton

Recognized for its strong presence in audit and tax services, Grant Thornton also offers advisory services, including business consulting, risk management, and technology solutions.

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Provides management, technology, and risk consulting services. Guidehouse helps clients address their toughest challenges and navigate significant regulatory pressures through comprehensive consulting services.

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Heidrick & Struggles

Heidrick & Struggles focuses on executive search and leadership consulting. Their services help organizations find and develop senior-level talent, enhancing leadership capabilities.

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Huron Consulting Group

Huron Consulting is known for its specialization in healthcare, education, and financial services, Huron provides operational and strategic consulting tailored to these sectors.

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IBM Global Services

IBM offers a range of services including technology consulting, IT services, and business services. They integrate their extensive expertise in IT solutions with business consulting.

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Infosys Consulting

A division of Infosys Technologies, this firm offers business consulting, technology, engineering, and outsourcing services. Infosys is well-known for its IT and software development capabilities alongside consulting services.

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Korn Ferry

Another firm specializing in executive search, Korn Ferry also offers organizational consulting services, including talent management and recruitment process outsourcing.

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KPMG offers audit, tax, and advisory services. Their advisory branch covers everything from IT consulting to deal advisory and management consulting.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

PwC provides consulting services alongside a strong lineup in auditing and assurance, tax advisory services, and specialized services in areas like cybersecurity and privacy.

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Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Provides IT services, consulting, and business solutions. TCS is known for its extensive IT and technology consulting services, alongside capabilities in business process outsourcing.

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Willis Towers Watson

WTW specializes primarily in risk management, insurance brokerage, and advisory services, including actuarial science, which is a niche area in consulting.

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Navigating the North American consulting market can be complex and diverse, often challenging to explore unless you are familiar with its structure and ways of operating. With a vast array of firms offering different specializations and capabilities, buying consulting services isn’t always straightforward.

However, there is a silver lining: it is doable. With proper due diligence and a clear understanding of your specific needs, you can successfully identify and engage the right consulting partners. Whether you need a generalist firm for comprehensive strategy development or a specialist firm for niche expertise, the rich diversity of the North American consulting market means that the right solution is out there.

And remember, if you find yourself struggling to navigate this intricate landscape, we’re here to help. Our expertise in custom search ensures you find the perfect consulting firm to meet your unique challenges and drive your business forward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should we hire a generalist or a specialist for a project?

It depends on the nature of your project. If you need comprehensive strategy development, consider a generalist firm like McKinsey or BCG. They have broad expertise across various domains and industries. For more focused challenges, such as cybersecurity or executive search, a specialist firm like Booz Allen Hamilton or Heidrick & Struggles might be more effective.

How many consulting firms are there in the North American market?

We don’t know for sure. The market is ever-evolving, and firms are born and die every day. The number also depends on how you define “consulting.” But there are probably between 1,000 and 2,000 consulting firms, excluding solo practitioners.

How do I find the right consulting firm for my needs?

Finding the right consulting firm can be daunting. Start by clearly defining your project scope and needs. Use resources like to search for firms that specialize in your area of interest. Additionally, consider seeking recommendations from industry peers or professional networks.

Is it better to choose a big consulting firm or a boutique firm?

It depends on your project requirements and budget. Big consulting firms offer extensive resources and a wide range of expertise, making them ideal for large, complex projects. Boutique firms, on the other hand, often provide specialized services with a personalized touch, which can be beneficial for niche projects.

How can I ensure confidentiality when hiring a consulting firm?

To ensure confidentiality, include strict clauses on confidentiality and conflict of interest in your consulting agreement. Discuss your concerns openly with potential consultants and choose a firm with a solid reputation for maintaining client confidentiality.

What should I look for in a consulting firm’s expertise?

Ensure the firm has both the capability and industry experience relevant to your project. Check their track record, client testimonials, and case studies. It’s crucial that they can demonstrate success in tackling challenges similar to yours.

Can consulting firms help with digital transformation?

Absolutely. Many consulting firms, especially hybrids like Accenture and Tata Consultancy Services, have strong digital transformation capabilities. They can help integrate new technologies, optimize digital processes, and drive innovation within your organization.

What do you do in your custom search that procurement leaders won’t do?

Technically, nothing different. We will do the same thing. But here’s the twist—we know the market inside out, we know how to adapt the procurement process to consulting, and we have many, many consultants (even the big ones) on speed dial. So, we do the same thing but faster, better, and cheaper. In all humility, of course.

🌟 Got Questions or Facing Challenges? 🌟

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Helene Laffitte

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting. To find out more, visit the blog or contact her directly.

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